Stalker, Hacker, Voyeur, Spy, by Helen K. Gediman

Foraging Film is as Pleasant as a Writer’s Work Gets

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You don’t have to be a psychoanalyst to recognize a stalker or to read or write a book about stalking. I hope the readers of Karnacology will indulge me by accompanying me through some selected personal highlights of my journey in preparing this volume, which is not, I believe, your typical experience of a psychoanalyst attempting to break new ground via writing.

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“this is the first major psychoanalytic study of the phenomenon of stalking”

As it turned out, my book was born serendipitously when I was called upon to present a paper on a panel on that topic and did not then think I knew a thing about it. By the time I had completed the book, one of my endorsers, William Fried, concluded, “Here is the first major psychoanalytic study of the phenomenon of stalking, a category of surveillance that implicates the entire spectrum of human motives … This material is crucial to understanding the uses and abuses of personal information and as disturbing as the latest newsfeeds.” I had pursued those newsfeeds as intensely as I delved into a study of films to buttress my much slimmer body of knowledge of stalking that derived from my clinical practice.

color-theory-colour-wheel-steve-mccurry-top-gun-rear-window-photography-slrlounge-12My initial forays into this work were oral presentations at professional and other meetings, at which I showed clips of cinematic masterpieces on sexual and surveillance stalking. Among these were some of every film buff’s favorites: Fatal Attraction, Play Misty for Me, Rear Window, The Conversation, Peeping Tom, Caché, The Lives of Others all rife with psychoanalytic themes replete with symbolism just waiting to be interpreted. Directors Lyne, Eastwood, Hitchcock, Coppola, Powell,  Haneke, and von Donnersmarck had put on celluloid what I aimed to put on paper. Of course, when I contracted with Karnac and its CIPS book series, “On The Boundaries of Psychoanalysis,” I knew I could not present a DVD with film clips along with my manuscript, and so I promised myself to find the best possible stills to download and then place as illustrations, capturing the central video image of stalking for each film I wrote up illustratively.

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Alas, I could not keep this promise for a number of reasons that thwarted me every long and time-consuming step of the way: I needed the permission of the copyright owner or the production company for every still that was so temptingly present in the internet. Sometimes the permission-granting authority was impossible to identify and to locate. Even more often, they did not respond to my requests to publish shots that had appeared so alluringly on their websites. When they did deign to respond, the price they were asking to sell an image that I thought would add greatly not only to my book but to the their coffers as well, was absurdly out of the range of any reasonable affordability. The motion picture industry, unlike the publishing industry was too hard a nut for me to crack to get the required permissions to print what I believed would have clinched the chasm between word and image.

leobookThe saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, but my reach for this ideal was clearly beyond my grasp. Given this blot on my escutcheon, I would now have to find the words to allow readers to imagine they were looking at the movie and seeing the clips I had used at my oral presentations. With the unflagging support of Karnac Books’ Editor-in-Chief, Rod Tweedy, who kindly and buoyantly assured me that my film synopses were so engagingly written I would not need images that were well-known enough, and implying that they were therefore trite by now in comparison with my lively prose, I became intensely involved in translating moving images into words, so much so that I aimed to not have to place film still illustrations into the text of my book: I hoped my way of writing would do the trick, and that, in a reversal of the usual expectations, a word might be worth a thousand pictures.

axis-mega-pixel-cameraIn a word, I had a lot of fun doing my work. However, as I went along, my fun was inevitably tempered by disturbing thoughts, feelings and predictions of not so good things to come as my ideas on surveillance stalking morphed into a deep brown study of cyberstalking and its ubiquitous invasions of privacy. Hacking, spying, and bulk collection of telephone and internet data by government agencies was the front page news of each day I devoted to expanding my ideas about stalking to include surveillance methods in cyberspace.

The conflict between security and privacy plagued me as I watched over and over and over, all the films illustrating stalking in this book, and peaked when I got to my study of the fictional Enemy of The State, and the documentary by Laura Poitras about Edward Snowden, Citizenfour. The disturbing juxtaposition of protecting citizens against terrorism while at the same time preserving their civil liberties and human rights weighed heavily on my mood as I progressed into territory that I had not dreamed about when I started my journey into the otherwise enticing areas of erotomania, unrequited love, eavesdropping, private eye investigations, voyeurism, and the like.

2c655560cee4d87deedce05b3c853a99The astonishing and shockingly unpredicted results of the 2016 USA presidential election, which transpired after I had submitted my final proofs of this book, clinched my mood shifts even after I thought I had painstakingly plumbed the depth of my subject. Little did I know, when I watched Trump literally stalk Clinton during their second televised debate, that his invasion of her private space was to mark the beginning of upending the relatively secure and predictable world we know and live in, and would require more than ever a spotlight on safeguarding of our progress to date in advancing civil and human rights. And I certainly did not know that on the very day my book became available for order and delivery, the CIA confirmed that Russia had launched a cyber attack on the USA in which it hacked into sites that affected our electoral procedure and possibly influenced our choice of President.

I became convinced that my forays into areas that psychoanalysts had left relatively untouched, or had customarily avoided because of old and invalid convictions that it was best for psychoanalysts to shy away from openly taking political positions, would expand the discipline to which I have devoted my life to be more reader friendly and relevant to people who are not psychoanalysts as well as to those who are.

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“I watched Trump literally stalk Clinton”

At the same time that I was writing Stalker, Hacker, Voyeur, Spy, I was completing a chapter on “Trauma, Destruction and PTSD” for another book in the CIPS/Karnac series, coauthored by Fred Busch, Michael Diamond, and Robert Pyles, entitled Trauma, Destruction, and Transformative Potential: Clinical Perspectives (Karnac Books, in preparation). In addition, I handed in to the “Reminiscence” section of the Division Review of Division 39 a long interview with Harold Blum that covered the major highlights of his life in psychoanalysis.

I also completed a second book, Building Bridges: The Selected Papers of Helen K. Gediman (International Psychoanalysis, in press) All this within a year and a half. You would think that I was hit by a major spell of productivity, if not some hypomanic inner demon. Getting older was on my mind every time I sat down to work on any of these projects, but especially to work on this book.  I never could quite shake the thought that I must complete this while I still have time, as though time were a reified force running out on me. I became more and more determined to hold and to expand my ground, and to learn something new with each new day of writing, “before it was too late.”

41ui7ddefl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Three of my major goals were to deepen my mastery of film scholarship, to succeed in reaching a non-psychoanalytic audience as well as a psychoanalytic one, and to advance the socio-political cause of balancing security with the privacy afforded by civil liberties and human rights. Glen Gabbard wrote in his endorsement that appears on the back cover, “Her knowledge of film scholarship is just as impressive as her psychoanalytic expertise,” and then “The result is a compelling and absorbing read that is at once both scholarly and accessible to the lay reader,” and finally, “I highly recommend this book as a way of gaining a greater understanding about the disappearance of privacy in our transparent new world.” He, for one, believed I had met all three of those goals.

Glen, whose judgment I respect utterly, not only made my day, but also made me believe that you can indeed learn new things and make them work differently as you move on during the later stages of your life. Quite honestly, though, when I began the book I did feel as though I were in a race against time, that reified abstraction that it is all too easy to project one’s anxieties into. Now I am ready to embark on my next one. Time has not yet run out or cut into my passionate wish to be as productive as or more productive than I’ve ever been.

37419Helen K. Gediman, PhD, was graduated Magna cum Laude from Radcliffe College of Harvard University at a time when psychoanalysis was taught at the undergraduate level. New York University, where she worked at The Research Center for Mental Health under the tutelage of Robert Holt and George S. Klein, awarded her doctorate. She completed her psychoanalytic education at the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis where she is currently Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychology and a training and supervising psychoanalyst. She is a member, Faculty, training and supervising psychoanalyst at the Contemporary Freudian Society (CFS) in both its New York City and Washington D.C. Programs, and was a co-founder of the latter program. For many years she served on its Board of Directors, both as Member-at-Large and as Recording Secretary. She is also a member of the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research (IPTAR), the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA), the Confederation of Independent Societies of the IPA (CIPS), and the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA), where she serves as a councilor on its Board of Directors as a delegate of Contemporary Freudians in APsaA (CFIA).

one-nation-under-cctv_newman-st_london_august_2008-h-1Additionally, she is a Fellow and Diplomate in Division 39, Psychoanalysis, of the American Psychological Association, where she has served for fifteen years on the Board of Directors of its Section on Psychoanalyst–Psychologist Practitioners (Section I). Dr. Gediman has published extensively in refereed psychoanalytic journals and in psychoanalytic books. Presently she serves as Chair of the Plumsock Prize (for papers written by unpublished psychoanalytic authors) Committee at CFS, and has been on the Editorial Board of Psychoanalytic Psychology, as well a regular reader and evaluator of papers submitted to JAPA, IPA and Division 39. A sampling of her over sixty-five papers and presentations will be forthcoming in the book Building Bridges: The Selected Psychoanalytic Papers of Helen K. Gediman, in press at International Psychoanalysis. She is also the author or co-author of three other books: Ego Functions in Schizophrenics, Neurotics and Normals, with Leopold Bellak and Marvin S. Hurvich (Wiley); Fantasies of Love and Death in Life and Art (New York University Press); The Many Faces of Deceit, with Janice S. Lieberman (Jason Aronson). Dr. Gediman is in the full-time private practice of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy in New York City, a mother, and a grandmother of two teenage granddaughters, Sarah Gonya Gediman and Elizabeth Ann Gediman, to whom this book is dedicated. Her most ardent hope is that they will live their lives such that the world that is their legacy will, some day, transcend the toxicity that permeates the privacy invasions developed thematically throughout Stalker, Hacker, Voyeur, Spy.

Helen K. Gediman’s book, Stalker, Hacker, Voyeur, Spy: A Psychoanalytic Study of Erotomania, Voyeurism, Surveillance, and Invasions of Privacy, has just been published by Karnac.

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